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Meetup: Digital Groups for Real-World Interaction

How an online social network is bringing people together in the real world, and how manufacturers can use it.

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Recently I was invited to attend a talk on additive manufacturing hosted by the local chapter of the Product Development and Management Association (PDMA). My email invitation included a link to the Cincinnati PDMA Meetup group, which the organization used to set up and coordinate the details for this event.

If you’re not familiar with Meetup (I wasn’t), it’s a social network that allows users to create virtual groups based on interests that get together in the real world. Once you join a Meetup group, you can RSVP for its events, connect with other members and even contribute to crowdfunding to help pay for things like refreshments. It’s an interesting mix of social media and real-world networking and learning opportunities.

What struck me most about the PDMA Meetup was the free exchange of knowledge among the people at the event. Attendees ranged from manufacturers currently using additive manufacturing to those just learning about this technology or seeing it up close for the first time. The Meetup was a way for those newcomers to learn from others with direct experience, ask questions, and make contacts for follow ups. Maybe some of those relationships will lead to contracts or collaborations.

If there’s a topic you’d like to learn more about—whether it’s additive manufacturing, the Internet of Things or how to launch a company website—see if there’s a relevant Meetup in your area. Or, consider starting your own.

(And it’s not all business—you’ll also find Meetups for photography, fitness, book clubs and just about any other interest you can think of.)